Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Most modern performance cars give you some control over settings, but the BMW M3 takes that concept to extremes. Next to the stubby gear selector you’ll find a button that's actually labelled ‘Setup’. Prodding it brings up a list of settings on the infotainment screen, letting you change everything from the sensitivity of the brakes to the loudness of the exhaust.
The sheer number of possible configurations can seem a little overwhelming so it’s handy that BMW includes preset modes that work well straight out of the box. Once you get more familiar with the M3, though, you’ll appreciate being able to fine-tune it for your own tastes. You can leave the steering in its lighter Comfort mode, for example, while having the engine at its most responsive.
In other words, it’s a good compromise, and one that allows you to place the car on the road very precisely. That’s handy, because when you deploy all 503bhp the M3 fires you up the road in an almost alarming manner.
On a fairly cold day at our test track, the BMW M4 (essentially the two-door version of the M3) managed to slingshot itself from 0-60mph in just 3.8 seconds – 0.7 seconds quicker than a C63 S in the same conditions. However, BMW’s launch control systems are notoriously temperamental, and when we tried to set a time in the M3, the system refused to initiate the perfect getaway.
Engine noise is also a little disappointing. Sure, it’s loud, bassy and leaves you in no doubt that lots of power is being produced – but it's not the sort of evocative sound you’ll find yourself accelerating hard just to hear, as you would in the V8-powered C63 AMG.
The M3 takes a bit of getting used to before you can really explore its limits through corners. There’s so much front-end grip and rear-end traction, you have to chip away at the limits before you feel truly confident to grab it by the scruff of its neck.
Happily, once you get there, you’ll find the latest M3 more predictable than its predecessor. If the rear wheels do break traction in a corner, the resulting slide is easy to manage. Thanks to a clever 10-stage system, you can fine-tune how much wheel-slip is allowed before the traction control cuts in. This is a big boon over the Giulia Quadrifoglio, in which the traction control is either on or off.